Mashpee Parents Lose Only Son To War
By: Brian Kehrl
When Cynthia J. and Kenneth A. Jones traveled from Mashpee down to Dover, Delaware, this week to greet the casket of their son, they first were welcomed upon their arrival with an escort.
They were brought to a spiritual center, where they met with the families of other Marines killed in the same helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan that this week took the life of their son, Marine Captain Eric A. Jones. The company was comforting, knowing they were not alone in their experience, Ms. Jones said.
There were several chaplains there to speak with them. The deputy commandant of the US Marine Corps and several two- and three-star generals were there as well, and not just for a moment to shake hands and express condolences but to sit down and talk. “They felt our pain,” Ms. Jones said.
“The Marines have been so good to us,” she said.
The Joneses were then informed of what to expect in going to the airfield, where an honor guard would play and Capt. Jones’s casket would be ushered out of a transport plane. So there they went, with the escort.
“That’s when it all became real. Eric was the second coffin off the plane,” Mr. Jones said.
“That’s when we knew it wasn’t just a nightmare. We knew it wasn’t surreal anymore,” Ms. Jones said.
The gracious treatment of the Joneses by the Marine Corps in Delaware and throughout the course of the last few days, in many ways mirrors the manner in which Capt. Jones regularly treated others, according to descriptions of his friends and family.
It was always everyone else first for Capt. Jones, opening doors for others, waiting to eat until his mother joined the family at the dinner table, they said. With his girlfriend, he would position himself on the side of the sidewalk with traffic when they were walking together. He would walk out in front when they went on hikes together, to make sure there were no snakes.
In an interview at their home on Monomoscoy Road yesterday afternoon, along with Capt. Jones’s girlfriend, Jackie Guidry, and best friend from childhood, Michael Warshaw, Capt. Jones’s parents described the young Marine as a man full of such courtesies, matched with a seriousness and sense of purpose in his dedication to fight for his country. They described a consummate Marine.
Mr. and Ms. Jones moved to Mashpee full time about five years ago, after raising Capt. Jones in Pound Ridge, New York, a town not far from New York City in Westchester County. But Mr. Jones’s parents purchased the property on Monomoscoy Island, where they now live, in 1981, so the family was intimately familiar with the small island and its residents long before moving here full time.
“Eric loved it here,” Mr. Jones said. “He loved the boating, he loved fishing, he loved swimming. The only thing he didn’t do was sail.”
The family’s ties on the island, and the tight-knit community there, have proven a godsend this week, the Joneses said. Friends and neighbors have been pouring in since Monday evening, bringing food, helping with whatever needs to be done. Two neighbors helped care for their sick dog, taking the early morning shift when the Joneses were down in Delaware. The same neighbors, Lewis and Jeanne C. Mantel, have offered to let friends and family in town for the funeral stay at their home.
When the Joneses arrived from Delaware yesterday, on a cold, rainy evening, the house was full of people.
“This place has been like Grand Central Station. It’s been wonderful,” Mr. Jones said.
“It’s not a neighborhood, it’s a family,” Ms. Jones said.
In addition to the visits from those in town, Ms. Jones said she has been fielding calls from Capt. Jones’s friends from across the country. They have been expressing condolences and sharing memories of Capt. Jones. “It is just so good to know that your son lives on in other people’s memories,” she said.
Capt. Jones had often expressed an interest in joining the military, Mr. Jones said. He spoke with his paternal grandfather of his experiences serving in World War II, Mr. Jones said. He dreamed of being a pilot, attracted to the speed and the adventure of flying, Mr. Jones said.
Mr. Jones recalled being in their car together along Route 130, at the intersection with the former Otis Air National Guard runway, watching the jets fly close overhead. The young Capt. Jones was enthralled, Mr. Jones said.
But it was the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, eight months before he would graduate from Northeastern University in Boston with his bachelor’s degree and a major in business and finance, that seemed to galvanize his decision to enlist, Mr. Jones said. “He felt the country was threatened, I think, and it was time to defend it,” Mr. Jones said.
At first, Mr. Jones said the family tried to discourage him. “We didn’t want to see him hurt. But he was determined,” Mr. Jones said. “The more he talked about it, the more we felt it was okay.”
The Joneses also had the support of several neighbors on Monomoscoy who were veterans and who helped convince them to support their son’s decision, Mr. Jones said. Dr. Mantel in particular was a mentor to the young Capt. Jones and a close friend of the family.
So soon after his May 2002 graduation, Capt. Jones enlisted in officer training.
After his flight school and other training, he served a full tour in Iraq.
His second tour, which began this May, also started in Iraq. But his unit’s mission was changed, so on July 4, the Marines headed northeast from Iraq to Afghanistan.
Capt. Jones did not speak much about his time in Afghanistan, the family and friends said. “He didn’t say too much about his mission, primarily to keep us from worrying,” Mr. Jones said.
Whenever they asked what he was up to, he would always have the same reply, Ms. Guidry said: “Same old, same old.”
“Just another day in the desert,” Mr. Jones recalled his son saying.
Instead he would ask about people from home and talk about plans for his next trip back here.
Ms. Jones said her son was always focused on making others happy, a trait also highlighted by Mr. Warshaw.
“He had really good manners, by the way,” Ms. Guidry said to Ms. Jones.
“He didn’t have a choice,” Ms. Jones replied with a smile.
Ms. Jones said he had a balance of being both easygoing and deeply serious. He was level-headed and almost never agitated, she said.
He never complained about the conditions there, even in 120-degree heat, Ms. Guidry said.
Military enlistment was rare among Mr. Warshaw’s and Capt. Jones’s peers from the affluent area in New York, Mr. Warshaw said. “Eric went because he really wanted to serve his country. He wanted to fly,” Mr. Warshaw said.
According to the defense department, also killed in the attack was Captain Kyle R. VanDeGiesen, a 29-year-old Marine from North Attleboro.
Marine Corporal Gregory M.W. Fleury, 23, of Anchorage, Alaska, and Captain David S. Mitchell, 30, of Loveland, Ohio, were also killed in the crash.
Military officials did not return several calls seeking comment on the circumstances that led to the crash. According to other news reports, the incident involved the crash of Capt. Jones’s and another military helicopter. Hostile fire was reported not to be involved.
Nearly two dozen American servicemen and women died in attacks and helicopter crashes this week, including a separate helicopter crash in which 14 Americans died, making October the deadliest month for American forces since the war in Afghanistan began eight years ago.
Captain Eric Jones' body will be brought to the Cape on Wednesday.
A wake will be held at from 4 to 8 PM on Friday, November 6, at Chapman, Cole, and Gleason Funeral Home, at 74 Algonquin Avenue, in Mashpee.
The funeral will be held at 11 AM on Saturday, November 7, John Wesley United Methodist Church, at the corner of Gifford Street and Jones Road, in Falmouth. Burial at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne will follow the funeral.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Semper Fi Fund for wounded Marines, at www.semperfifund.org.
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